Today I am kicking off Kim Slater’s Blog tour for her new book Smart! Kim is sharing her writing tips for aspiring authors out there. Kim’s book Smart is a fantastic story following Kieran on his mission to find out what happened the the homeless guy he finds dead in the river. To read my review of Smart please click here. Smart publishes on Thursday from Mcmillan Children’s Books.
After three years of a full-time English & Creative Writing degree and two years studying on an MA in Creative Writing, I felt well-equipped to embark on my quest to become a published writer.
My degrees gave me a solid grounding in writing technique, literary theory and the ability to analyse texts and to read as a writer.
There has been much debate recently about whether creative writing is a skill that can be taught and I would say it is like anything else; a natural talent can be developed and honed and I would recommend a writing degree to anyone who wants to do as I did – to develop and apply those skills.
However, my steepest learning curve in writing has taken place since I got my agent and publisher.
My agent, the wonderful Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Literary & Film Agency and fabulously talented publishing editor, Rachel Kellehar at Macmillan Children’s Books (MCB), have invested so much time and belief in me and I have learned so much about myself as a writer – about how I write best and how to improve on that.
I consider myself very lucky to be part of an agency who have a brilliant in-house editor, Vicki le Feuvre. Vicki and my agent, Clare, have provided me with detailed editorial reports on my work which have proved invaluable.
As they have grown to know me as an author, they have been able, through their amazing insight, knowledge and experience, to guide me into getting to know myself better as a writer. By this I mean to get me thinking about what kind of author I am and where my best writing strengths lie. You can read more about why this is so important in my writing tips below.
Once my debut novel Smart was honed into good enough shape to go out to publishers and to get a publishing deal with MCB, my editor there, Rachel Kellehar, edited the manuscript with a fine toothcomb and with such close reading/line editing, got to know the novel as well as I did. You can read more about Rachel’s unique contribution below and on my website.
I believe you never stop learning but the writing tips below can fast-track you to being a better writer.
- Know thyself! Think about what you write best. Analyse the writing you’ve had the most positive feedback on and learn what your forte is…then stick to it!
- Decide what it is you want to say. Once you have your initial idea and you feel like you’ve got a keeper, make your next priority thinking about what you broadly want to say in your novel and pin it down. My new ideas usually start with a character – a voice. Every writer is different in this respect, of course. But once you work out your theme or themes, run it like a thread through the whole book and keep bringing the narrative and characters back to it to get your message through to the reader.
- Ensure your characters’ actions and dialogue are consistent. Sometimes it’s all too easy to get carried away on a plot point and make your character do or say stuff that’s not really ‘them’. Try to weed any instances of this out of your manuscript.
- Don’t dumb down your audience. Writing for young adults is no different to adult fiction on this issue. Give your reader credit – there’s really no need to spell things out. Trust they’ll get what you’re trying to say.
- Get stuff right. My editor at MCB, Rachel Kellehar is infuriatingly good at picking up factual inaccuracies in the text. Young adults are easily as tough as adult readers and soon lose patience if the author is sloppy with their facts. In Smart, Ryan, the protagonist’s stepbrother, is obsessed with the computer game Call of Duty. Rachel picked up I’d used terms not factual to the game and we had to get them right. Quite rightly – no room for sloppiness here.
- Watch the pressure. Having an agent and a publisher is every writer’s dream but with these wondrous things comes dreaded pressure. When redrafting or submitting a manuscript, it’s easy to start thinking about writing what you think your agent or editor might want – instead of focusing on what you want to write and what you write best. I was in a bit of a sticky patch where I found it hard to stand back and peel away the perceived expectation, I just couldn’t seem to get my head straight. I resolved it by going back to the writing I’d done on my MA, the writing I’d produced without too much pressure. My own natural writing style shone out like a beacon to me and soon got me back on track.
- Read like a writer. If a book touches you, scares you, intrigues you – then analyse exactly how the author achieved this and learn from it.
One last word, I don’t take credit for the writing tips above, they are a product of me, a debut author, learning from the wonderful professionals I have around me.
Hope it helps!!
See my website www.kimslater.com for more information on the writing/publishing process or follow me on Twitter: @kimslater01